We all hear messages that an essential component to overall health is a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. And we know these are the foods that are most often missing in American diets. More than 3.4 million Texans rely on Federal food assistance via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to put food on their tables, but fruits and veggies are still out of reach. Research highlights numerous reasons why SNAP participants aren’t eating enough F&V. This includes cooking equipment at home, education about how to cook, and transportation. But the #1 reason that low-income shoppers cite as the reason they do not eat more fresh fruits and vegetables is price/ affordability. The Double Up Food Bucks healthy food incentive program addresses this challenge head on, by partnering with private funders and USDA to double SNAP consumers’ purchasing power when they use their federal food benefits. It then maximizes the health impact of those food dollars by targeting them for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Here’s how Double Up works: A family, for instance, that spends $10 in SNAP benefits at a participating site receives an additional $10 in free Double Up Food Bucks to spend on locally grown fruits and vegetables. The wins are three-fold: low-income families eat more healthy food, local farmers gain new customers and make more money, and more food dollars stay in the local economy. Each has a ripple effect of benefits. In 2018, Fair Food Network received a three-year grant from the USDA to work with local partners to bring its proven program to other states, including Texas. By virtue of $230,000 in matching funds provided by Covenant Health Foundation, Tecovas Foundation, Kresge Foundation, and United Supermarkets and in partnership with Texas Hunger Initiative, Fair Food Network secured $230,000 in USDA funds to support nutrition incentive work in West Texas. We currently have 5 DUFB farmers market sites and 4 grocery store sites.
From 2018 to 2020, SNAP sales at farmers’ markets doubled and in June of this year, we are saw an increase in Double up redemption of 5.5 times at farmers markets, compared June of last year. Mahriah Dickson (photo below), who owns the Wolfforth Farmers market south of Lubbock, tells us that she and her family are “…so thankful for the opportunity to be involved in the Double Up Food Bucks program in our area. We have seen an increase in customers on SNAP benefits since the pandemic began. Our vendors have also struggled to provide for their families during this time, and this program helps our food vendors and farmers tremendously.”
Cal Brints (featured in photo below), who manages Texas Country Produce in Lubbock, sees both the economic and community health benefits of Double Up. He is very excited for the renewed effort and energy going towards promotion of the program at farmers’ markets. “The Double Up Food Bucks Program has the potential to have tremendous benefit to our area farmers, farmers’ markets, and of course our neighbors who received SNAP benefits,” Brints says. “The program greatly reduces the average price of the fresh fruits and vegetables available to the program participants. This price reduction on produce provides a great incentive for families to consume a much healthier diet than would otherwise be possible.”
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